TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IMRAN Tahir showed why he is white-ball cricket’s finest bowler with a career-best performance that earned South Africa victory by 78 runs in their one-off T20 against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.
The hard-charging, flamboyantly celebrating, 37-year-old leg spinner, who is the No. 1 ranked bowler in both one-day and T20 cricket, took 5/24 as New Zealand crashed to 107 all out in reply to South Africa’s 185/6.
Tahir claimed all his wickets – three of them with googlies, two of them with consecutive balls – in the space of 15 of his deliveries and had much to do with New Zealand losing their last seven wickets for 52 runs.
He celebrated each strike with the exuberance that South Africans have come to expect, but which remains a novelty among more reserved New Zealanders.
“If I get tired, I get tired,” Tahir said when a television interviewer asked him about the sprints into the outfield he embarked on to mark each wicket he takes.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson also came up with a pithy line to describe his team’s performance: “We didn’t really fire a shot.”
Tahir didn’t allow them to. Neither did Chris Morris – who dismissed Glenn Phillips and Colin Munro with consecutive deliveries in the third over – nor Andile Phehlukwayo, who counted Williamson’s wicket in his haul of 3/19.
South Africa’s competitive total, the fourth-highest score in the 13 T20 internationals played at the ground, was driven by Hashim Amla’s half-century and cracking cameos by AB de Villiers and JP Duminy.
Opener Amla made 62 off 43 balls with nine fours and a six, a measured innings that kept him at the crease into the 14th over.
De Villiers drilled his 26 off 17 balls, hitting thee fours and a six, while 29 runs flowed off the 156 balls faced by Duminy, who hammered two fours and two sixes.
South Africa stumbled to 15/1 in the third over when Trent Boult had Quinton de Kock caught at deep square leg for a fourth-ball duck.
Enter Faf du Plessis to help Amla put the innings back on track with a stand of 87 that lasted for 51 balls before Du Plessis was trapped in front for 36 by Colin de Grandhomme.
Against a New Zealand attack that seemed to run out of ideas in the first half of the innings, South Africa looked locked and loaded for a total somewhere north of 200.
But the Kiwis fought back well, and the visitors – who were 98/1 midway through their 20 overs – lost five wickets and could add only 87 runs in their second 10.
Boult was the star of what turned into a solid bowling display, taking 2/8 from his fours overs.
Sixteen of his 24 deliveries were dot balls.